College Dating and Social Anxiety: Using the Internet as a Means of Connecting to Others

Department of Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506-6040, USA.
CyberPsychology & Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.71). 11/2007; 10(5):680-8. DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2007.9970
Source: PubMed


With the advent and widespread use of the Internet, various online media are being used to connect and maintain social relationships in individuals of all ages. Social relationships are vital to healthy development, and individuals with social and/or dating anxiety may have marked difficulty in establishing appropriate, supportive relationships because of fear of negative evaluation by others. For these individuals, the Internet may open avenues of communication and provide an outlet through which relationships can be formed and preserved. This study investigated the characteristics of computer and Internet use in young adults to determine whether individuals who were high in social/dating anxiety symptoms were more likely to make and maintain social relationships online. To further understand the patterns of these behaviors, several measures of social and dating anxiety were collected and analyzed along with demographic, computer use, and relationship characteristics. Results indicated differences between high and low social/dating anxiety with respect to media use and relationship formation. Limitations and future directions are discussed.

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    • "One review of the research reports that " membership and participation in Internet groups can have powerful effects on one's self and identity " (Bargh & McKenna, 2004: 581). And there is some suggestion that this is particularly powerful for people with social anxiety (Stevens & Morris, 2007). And that when people disengage from online groups, they go through much the same processes as when disengaging from face to face communities (Kazmer, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Children and adolescents are now using online communication to form and/or maintain relationships with strangers and/or friends. Relationships in real life are important for children and adolescents in identity formation and general development. However, social relationships can be difficult for those who experience feelings of loneliness and social anxiety. The current study aimed to replicate and extend research conducted by Valkenburg and Peter (2007b), by investigating differences in online communication patterns between children and adolescents with and without selfreported loneliness and social anxiety. Six hundred and twenty-six students aged 10-16 years completed a questionnaire survey about the amount of time they engaged in online communication, the topics they discussed, who they communicated with, and their purposes of online communication. Following Valkenburg and Peter (2007b), loneliness was measured with a shortened version of the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3) developed by Russell (1996), whereas social anxiety was assessed with a sub-scale of the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (La Greca & Lopez, 1998). The sample was divided into four groups of children and adolescents: 220 were “non-socially anxious and non-lonely”, 139 were “socially anxious but not lonely”, 107 were “lonely but not socially anxious”, and 159 were “lonely and socially anxious”. A one-way ANOVA and chi-square tests were conducted to evaluate the aforementioned differences between these groups. The results indicated that children and adolescents who reported being lonely used online communication differently from those who did not report being lonely. Essentially, the former communicated online more frequently about personal things and intimate topics, but also to compensate for their weak social skills and to meet new people. Further analyses on gender differences within lonely children and adolescents revealed that boys and girls communicated online more frequently with different partners. It was concluded that for these vulnerable individuals online communication may fulfil needs of self-disclosure, identity exploration, and social interactions. However, future longitudinal studies combining a quantitative with a qualitative approach would better address the relationship between Internet use and psychosocial well-being. The findings also suggested the need for further exploration of how such troubled children and adolescents can use the Internet beneficially.
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    ABSTRACT: Despite having difficulties in the areas of social interaction and communication, the introduction of the Internet seems to have encouraged some high-functioning autistic people to communicate with each other via chat rooms and bulletin boards. The Internet can address the social isolation of autism by improving the potential to find others who have similar experiences. Additionally it may be that, for autistic people, the Internet also offers a comfortable space more suited to their communication style, perhaps one in which their interaction seems less odd. If so, there are possible implications for this group of people in terms of education, employment and social inclusion. However there are risks. Autistic people may be particularly vulnerable to individuals misrepresenting themselves or to the possibility of over-reliance on computer-mediated interaction resulting in an exacerbation of obsessive behaviour and withdrawal from face-to-face interaction. An initial survey, to discover the extent of Internet use among people with autism and investigate their motivations for using it, was carried out, obtaining responses from 138 people with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome. Results indicated a high level of computer and Internet use amongst respondents and implied that email was a popular means of communication, more so than face-to-face communication even when interacting with friends. This introductory survey raised issues and questions which were explored in more depth with a subset of the respondents who were interviewed by email about their experiences, motivations and perceptions regarding Internet-based communication. In addition to 19 email interviews, data were also collected from 4 non or reluctant users of the Internet who were sent a series of questions by post. A grounded theory analysis of the data revealed a heightened awareness of communication amongst this group of participants, who offered insights into the process of communication in terms of its component parts and how it breaks down for them. Central to the analysis is a theme of the interviewee as observer, feeling detached to some degree from mainstream interaction and like an outsider. From this perspective participants offered their analysis of the complex process of communication, online and offline as they experienced it, highlighting key aspects of the Internet in relation to their own needs, ones which made it a unique form of communication. Their insights into communication are described in four themes: control, clarity, the role of nonverbal communication and the social role of communication. Additionally the interviewees expressed a sense of liberation that could come with online communication for people with Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism such that they may interact with others on a more equal basis. This could be empowering but with the sense of liberation there was a risk of losing control over one’s interactions. The interviewees’ perceptions of CMC are explored within a uses and gratifications framework which posits that people use particular communication channels to satisfy their individual needs and motives. By using computer-mediated communication some of the social and communication barriers which contribute to the disability of autism may be broken down.
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